Saturday, August 8, 2009


The Americans have stepped up the pressure on Swaziland to pass a law to outlaw human trafficking in the kingdom.

The Swazis have been given a deadline of mid September to get their house in order. If they don’t aid worth up to 200 million dollars could be withdrawn.

As I reported in June 2009, women and children in Swaziland are bought and sold for sex, domestic servitude and forced labour, Swazi boys are trafficked for forced labour in commercial agriculture and market vending. Some Swazi women are forced into prostitution in South Africa and Mozambique after voluntarily travelling to these countries in search of work.

Despite ample evidence that this was going on the Swazi Government did nothing about it, so the United States intervened to force Swaziland’s hand.

Now Swaziland’s illegally-appointed Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini has announced the House of Assembly will rush through a new law outlawing human trafficking, because he fears losing up to 200 million dollars of US aid.

We should be pleased that some attempt is being made to address the issue of forced labour, but we shouldn’t expect a good job to be down on the parliamentary bill. The Swazi Parliament is pretty hopeless when it comes to drafting legislation because often members of parliament don’t understand what it is that is before them. Just look at the mess they made last year with the Suppression of Terrorism Act and even today, four years after it was enacted, many parliamentarians can’t understand the Swaziland Constitution.

Here’s a flavour of the new People Trafficking and People Smuggling Bill: if passed it will be illegal for anyone to promise someone a lucrative job or marriage and fail to provide such a job whilst the worker is then far from home. Can someone explain to me what that actually means?

A sign of what might lay ahead come this week when MPs discussed the proposed new law and said it was dangerous to agree to it as it would set a bad precedent to have another country tell Swazis what to do.

Others saw the new law as an attack on Swazi culture. MP Petros Mavimbela told the House of Assembly that ‘sometimes we marry people without the need to ask for their permission as such is the Swazi culture’.

The clock is ticking. The Swazi House of Assembly has until 13 September to meet its deadline. Who would bet on them to make it?

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